Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Negative emissions no silver bullet for climate change mitigation


There are significant constraints to large-scale deployment of negative emissions technologies in the future to reach climate change targets, according to a new study including research of the Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change (MCC). Published today in Nature Climate Change, it demonstrates the potential environmental, economic, and energy impacts of negative emission technologies for addressing climate change. The study comes at a time when UN climate negotiators currently meet in Paris at the world climate summit COP21 and emphasizes that greenhouse gas emissions must be reduced aggressively and immediately.

Negative emission technologies aim to remove carbon dioxide (CO2), a major driver of climate change, from the atmosphere. They include relatively simple options like planting more trees to lock up CO2 as they grow, or crushing rocks that naturally absorb CO2 and spreading them on soils so that they remove CO2 more rapidly.

Poto: Photocase / Oli_ok

Other higher-tech options include using chemicals to absorb CO2 from the air, or burning plants for energy and capturing the CO2 that would otherwise be released, then storing it permanently deep below the ground, called bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS).

The study confirms and warns that future use of negative emissions should not be interpreted as a fall-back option. This would be risky, as continuing to cumulate emissions would entail lower chances of stabilizing climate change at less than two degrees Celsius.

“Plan A” must be to reduce greenhouse gas emissions aggressively now. A failure to initiate such aggressive emissions cuts may leave us with no “Plan B” to stabilize the climate within the two degree target, as the deployment of these technologies will likely be limited due to any combination of the environmental, economic or energy constraints examined in the study.

“Negotiators at the climate summit in Paris must realize that betting on negative emissions doesn’t release us from cutting down on carbon now,” says co-author Sabine Fuss, a researcher at the Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change (MCC), who also serves on the Global Carbon Project (GCP) scientific steering committee.

“Our research shows that there are limits to the different negative emissions technologies – some demanding vast areas of land, some being energy-intensive. Therefore, future research should look not only on BECCS, but continue to explore all carbon dioxide removal options: we will probably be dependent on the full deck of cards, even if we don’t end up playing all of them.”

The work was carried out by a team of 40 collaborators on behalf of the GCP, including three MCC researchers. Among other things, they focused especially on the synthesis of the current literature on the biophysical limits to bioenergy and afforestation, and contributed to the analysis of BECCS deployment in the scenarios for the latest IPCC report. Some 85 percent of the 2-degree-scenarios examined by the IPCC assume the use of technologies such as BECCS.

It is still realistic to limit the increase global mean temperature to two-degree. Indeed, this requires negative emissions – but they’re also necessary to manage a three-degree-target,” MCC director Ottmar Edenhofer says. “Putting a price on carbon would be a very effective way to cut rising emissions quickly and aggressively. It would push the development of technology in the right direction and make us less dependent on negative emissions that bear large uncertainties.”

The new research considers the impacts of negative emission technologies on land use, greenhouse gas emissions, water use, earth’s reflectivity, and soil nutrient depletion, as well as the energy and cost requirements for each technology. The study shows that there are many such impacts that vary across technologies. These impacts need to be satisfactorily addressed if negative emission technologies are to play a significant role in achieving climate change goals.

Reference of the cited article:
Pete Smith (et al.) (2015): Biophysical and economic limits to negative CO2 emissions. Nature Climate Change. DOI: 10.1038/nclimate2870

Weitere Informationen:

Fabian Löhe | idw - Informationsdienst Wissenschaft

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Diagnoses: When Are Several Opinions Better Than One?
19.07.2016 | Max-Planck-Institut für Bildungsforschung

nachricht High in calories and low in nutrients when adolescents share pictures of food online
07.04.2016 | University of Gothenburg

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

'Neighbor maps' reveal the genome's 3-D shape

27.10.2016 | Life Sciences

Gene therapy shows promise for treating Niemann-Pick disease type C1

27.10.2016 | Life Sciences

Solid progress in carbon capture

27.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

More VideoLinks >>>